Here I am, in the Delta Sky Club, sipping a cup of (free) coffee, nibbling a (free) toasted bagel and some trail mix), using the (free) internet, and waiting for my flight to board. The past week has been kind of an emotional roller coaster ride for me, and has brought me face to face with some things about myself that I have to decide whether to work on overcoming, or simply accept for what they are and go from there. In practical terms, these things have a lot to do with the issue of being home, of traveling. In more general terms, it's all about staying within a comfort zone, and how much willingness/courage/opportunity I have to step outside of it.
I have enough self awareness to know where my comfort zone lies, and I also know that over the past several months-maybe years- it's been shrinking instead of expanding. Several incidents during the recent past have demonstrated this in spades, most notably the Paris trip we had planned for this week. I had so much anxiety surrounding this trip - irrational anxiety which had little to do with the unexpected social unrest in that country - but which stemmed from a real, and obsessive fear of leaving home. I remember having that kind of fear about a trip one other time in my life. It was the first trip I was going to take as accompanist for the high school choir, a long weekend in New York City which turned out to be one of the most exciting and memorable trips I can remember. And yet, for days even weeks before hand, I was sick to my stomach at the thought of going on it.
I've traveled a lot since then, on musical trips, and vacation trips, solo and with groups. And I always experience a certain amount of anxiety, but it's always been manageable. This time was different - the anxiety nearly crippled me, and in the end played a significant role in our decision to cancel the trip. The strikes and gas shortages and terror alerts - those didn't help, for sure. But I'll admit, in a small corner of my psyche, I was almost relieved to have this excuse.
So knowing and recognizing this reluctance to travel, what do I do? Because I think this fear is only one symptom of a larger and more pressing disorder - the aforementioned shrinking of the comfort zone. How do I find ways to expand my boundaries? Or do I simply accept that this is my personality and live within whatever comfort zone I eke out for myself? I can envision my life diminishing into the kind of small, safe box my mother and aunt and grandmother chose to live in. Occasionally, fed up with the hassles of modern life, I'm tempted to shout "open the lid and let me climb in!" But then, I think about the brevity of life in general, and wonder if I this is really the way I want to live out the remainder of mine in particular.
Perhaps, as in alcoholism, recognizing the disorder is a sign of half the battle won. As I did 15 years ago when I went back to work after being a stay-at-home mom, I need to be alert for opportunities to step outside the confines of my comfortable box. But knowing who and how I am, I also need a core group of "encouragers" - cheerleaders, if you will - faithful supporters who nurture and cajole me into taking those first steps.
Then I might find the sides of the box expanding ever so gently, taking my comfort zone along for the ride.
Oh - in case you're wondering what I'm doing in the Delta Sky Club - we actually did travel this week. To Newport Beach, California, where we spent a very happy five days driving a Corvette convertible up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.
And so the expansion begins <smile>